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Immigration

A Sanctuary City Becomes a Sanctuary From Justice

The Ninth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit by Kate Steinle's parents over her killing by an illegal.

Michael Swartz · Mar. 29, 2019

It may have been a case that defined a campaign. Just two weeks after Donald Trump descended down the escalator at Trump Tower and announced he was in the 2016 presidential race — running on a get-tough approach to illegal immigration — 32-year-old Kate Steinle was fatally shot as she walked down a San Francisco pier.

The stray bullet, fired from a gun which had been stolen from a federal agent, came from a five-time deportee then going under the name Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Also known as Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the assailant had only weeks before been released from prison on a drug offense. While federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had asked the San Francisco sheriff’s department for notification of Garcia Zarate’s release, the department followed then-newly adopted “sanctuary city” protocol prohibiting this notice, allowing the illegal alien his freedom.

Eventually Garcia Zarate was acquitted of all but the least serious charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, avoiding conviction on charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon. Still, that conviction was enough to put him back in federal prison, where he continues to serve — and is expected to once again be deported upon his release. (Our prediction: he’s back here inside a month.)

Since the Steinle family clearly wasn’t satisfied with the “justice” meted out by the criminal courts, they turned to civil court to sue the defendant as well as city, county, and federal authorities. In December 2017, the civil case was dismissed by a federal district court, and this week the Steinles’ appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was turned aside.

While it’s natural to blame the notoriously leftist Ninth Circuit for not overturning the district court’s decision, in truth the problem stems from California state law that’s overly protective of public officials’ liability. In the case summary, the Court wrote:

Specifically, the panel held that although 8 U.S.C. §§ 1373(a) and 1644 prohibit restrictions on providing certain types of information to ICE, they plainly and unambiguously do not prohibit the restriction at issue in this case regarding release date information. The panel further held that, assuming the Sheriff’s actions adversely affected ICE’s ability to do its job, this did not … strip him of the discretionary authority under California law to institute the policy that he did.

For the record, the verdict was written by Judge Mark J. Bennett, a recent Trump appointee, with concurrence by a Clinton-appointed jurist, Susan P. Graber. The third judge on the panel was Stephanie Dawn Thacker, on loan from the Fourth Circuit.

Regarding the ruling itself, as Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw puts it, “California has given all of their officials blanket immunity from repercussions resulting from their actions as long as the action in question was part of their official duties.” The problem, then, isn’t the court but the law.

While much of the media maintains an apologetic tone to the convicted Garcia Zarate, there’s no denying that “sanctuary city” policy was the deciding factor in this series of events. Remove the assailant from the equation and Kate Steinle may still be alive today.

Simply following federal law would allow us to remove illegal immigrants. And while it can’t bring back the thousands being mourned by “angel parents” around the nation, it would help America to return to being the nation of laws it was intended to be.

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